Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Michael Middlebrooks

Security officer Michael Middlebrooks embraced new role as pastor

PLANT CITY — On June 5, 2004, a convoy of trucks came under attack outside Baghdad International Airport.

Among those killed was Chris Neidrich, 23, of Palm Harbor. The former naval officer worked for Critical Intervention Services, a Clearwater security company.

Neidrich's family needed a pastor.

Michael Middlebrooks, a security executive for TECO Energy who was studying for the ministry, stepped forward. Mr. Middlebrooks often stopped by Critical Intervention Services, which handles security for TECO's power plants. Though he did not know Neidrich and was not yet ordained, Mr. Middlebrooks conducted the funeral service, his first service as a pastor.

He would be ordained as a Baptist minister in 2005, and go on to lead three other churches through transitions before settling in as the pastor of Springhead Baptist Church in Plant City.

Mr. Middlebrooks, who continued to work full time at TECO while counseling its employees for free or visiting them in hospitals, died April 12 in North Carolina of congestive heart failure. He was 48.

A third-generation Plant City native from an agricultural family, Mr. Middlebrooks walked on the wild side as a teenager — sort of. He hid the church candelabra. He toilet-papered yards.

"About half my dates fell through because he was on restriction," said his wife, Tanya Middlebrooks, 48. They met in the Plant City High School band. She remembers him as "a chubby redneck" with a personality as loud as his trumpet.

After high school, he got a job reading meters at TECO. About 10 years ago he began studying for the ministry through the Southern Baptist Convention. Mr. Middlebrooks worked both careers simultaneously, seeking out the sick and taking calls in the middle of the night.

He also ate fried-chicken breakfasts and struggled with weight.

The couple traveled to Havelock, N.C., two weeks ago to visit their daughter, Nikki, who was due to give birth in seven weeks. They learned en route that the baby had been born prematurely.

Braden Clink weighed 4 pounds, 5 ounces. Mr. Middlebrooks couldn't hold him but got to touch the incubator. The next afternoon he came down with what the family thought was pneumonia.

Doctors in New Bern, N.C., discovered a weakening heart not strong enough to survive bypass surgery. Mr. Middlebrooks died at 12:20 a.m. Easter Sunday.

At a viewing Thursday, well-wishers stretched one block outside Hopewell Funeral Home, which estimated a crowd of nearly 1,200. The two-hour event stretched to five.

Funeral home employees took guest books outside to visitors, some of whom had waited in line for 21/2 hours, offering them a chance to sign the books and go home.

Most insisted on staying.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or ameacham@sptimes.com.

. Biography

Michael Lloyd Middlebrooks

Born: Nov. 15, 1960.

Died: April 12, 2009.

Survivors: wife Tanya; father Lloyd; mother, Maryanne; daughter Nicole Clink and her husband, Charles; son Matthew; brother Daniel; sister Deborah Gray; and grandson Braden.

Security officer Michael Middlebrooks embraced new role as pastor 04/20/09 [Last modified: Monday, April 20, 2009 10:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Minors also a training ground for umpires with big-league dreams

    The Heater

    Umpire Tom Fornarola, 23, left, and Taylor Payne, 24, facing, talk before the start of the Gulf Coast League game between the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers at the Tigertown complex in Lakeland, Fla. on Wednesday, July 5, 2017.
  2. In Florida, nation's only lightning center closes after DARPA cuts funding

    Environment

    University of Florida professor Martin Uman usually spends much of this summer at an old Army base about an hour northeast of Gainesville, shooting rockets at thunderclouds, then measuring the bright flashes of lightning that followed.

    Rocket-and-wire triggered lightning at the University of Florida's International Center for Lightning Research and Testing, which recently lost federal funding. A rocket trailing a grounded wire is launched toward an active thunderstorm at the ICLRT. One launch is from a tower, one from ground. When the wire is about as high as the Empire State Building, lightning is induced to strike the top of the wire, much as it strikes tall objects like the ESB. Interestingly, the cloud charge source is about 3 miles high, so a 300 yard-long wire can cause a 3 mile or more long lightning.  After that, there are several normal tortuous strokes ( downward leaders from the cloud charge/upward return strokes) which can be seen as the wind blows the individual strokes to the right. The time between strokes is about 50 thousands of a second. Between some strokes, continuing current can be seen. Continuing current is what generally starts forest fires. [Photo by Dr. Dustin Hill]
  3. Editorial: Reasonable clarity on gambling in Florida

    Editorials

    Gambling expansion strategies — and misfires — are nearly an annual ritual in Florida. There were the eight counties that voted to allow slot machines but were blocked by the Florida Supreme Court. There was the governor's $3 billion deal with the Seminole Tribe in 2015 that was never approved by the …

    Gov. Rick Scott agreed to a much simpler deal with the Seminole Tribe that embraces the status quo instead of expansion. And that’s a good thing.
  4. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]
  5. Editorial: Hillsborough smartly embraces diversion program for youths

    Editorials

    Children who commit minor crimes can pay for their mistakes for a lifetime — losing a chance to attend college, join the military or obtain credit and a good job. That is unjust to the individuals and a burdensome cost to society, and Hillsborough County is taking the right new approach by giving some juveniles a …

    Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren has announced an agreement between law enforcement agencies and the courts that will allow first-time offenders who commit nonviolent crimes as juveniles to be issued civil citations rather than face an arrest and prosecution.